Grace by Faith
William Barclay wrote the following in his Romans commentary: “One of the great stories of the Christian Church is that of Telemachus. He was a hermit of the desert, but the call of God told him he must go to Rome. Rome was known for its gladiator games. Men fought with each other and crowds roared with the lust for blood. Telemachus found his way to the games and his breath was taken away to see 80,000 people there. He was horrified and thought, 'Were these men who were slaughtering each other not also children of God?' He leaped from his seat, right into the arena, and stood between the gladiators. He was tossed aside, but he came back. The crowds were angry and they began to stone him. Still he struggled back between the gladiators. The prefect’s command rang out, a sword flashed in the sunlight and Telemachus was dead. Suddenly there was a hush. The crowd realized what had happened. A holy man laid dead. Something happened that day to Rome, for there were never again gladiatorial games. The one man had let loose something by his death that changed an entire empire. A reformation begins with one person and you can never estimate how far it will reach. That's what we think on Reformation Sunday when we think of a monk, named Maarten Luther, who read Romans 1: 17 – “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” And then the light bulb went on for Luther. A person can never earn salvation – it's the gift of God and we call it grace. In Romans 1:16-17 Paul proclaimed the immeasurable Grace of God which believers would receive by the gift of Faith. When we read the history of the Reformation, with Luther who initiated it in Germany and others who continued God’s work in Switzerland, Denmark, France, The Netherlands and England, we want to cry out: “God’s grace has reached His people again.” All those prominent Reformers set the stage for future generations to take God’s message out into the world. The legacy of the Reformation makes each one of us a messenger of God’s gift of Grace by Faith alone.
There are two principles from Rom. 1: 16&17 St. Paul identified; principles which brought Maarten Luther on the path of God's grace. The first is – 1 Be Bold About The Gospel. Paul wrote to the Romans, to Luther and all believers of all times and places, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Verse 16. None of us can claim that power alone. Our salvation is not our own. Paul made a confession that thousands of God’s children used over ages – “By the grace of God I am who I am.” The story is told of a pastor of a large church who had a dream one night that really opened his heart. He dreamt that he could see his own church worship service on a Sunday morning. But there was something very strange happening. The people in the congregation were singing. But there was nothing coming from their mouths. The preacher himself got up to preach his typical Sunday sermon. He opened his mouth to preach, but no sound could be heard. Then in his dream, the pastor saw a little girl up in the balcony and heard her little voice singing, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." The pastor was confused and suddenly woke up. He prayed – “God, what's going on? I'm confused. What's the meaning of my dream?” The pastor went back to sleep and then he received a vivid message from God - “You and your congregation are busy with your ministry, your worship and your praises. You are preaching your sermons. You should be like the little girl, who acknowledge my grace in her own life.” Wasn't this perhaps exactly what Maarten Luther discovered in his heart? He personally had been touched by God. Can you and I affirm this morning without any doubt – “God changed my life the day when Jesus became my Lord and Saviour”? Only God's grace could change us; only in God's grace can we speak about His greatness and love. And with Paul we have to say, “I'm not ashamed of this Gospel, because it God's power for saving the world.” We too can be bold about the grace of God that touched our lives. Eight years ago I underwent training through the Faith Trust Institute in Seattle and I had a conversation with a woman about assurance of faith. She said that she wasn't so convinced whether the salvation of Jesus was true for her. When she asked me if that was true for me, I said, “That's the rock solid foundation I have in this life. In His grace Jesus touched my life.” We have to go out and tell others about God my friends. We can never hold back. The Gospel much reach every single person in this world. Why are we sometimes silent? Evangelist Dwight L. Moody travelled on horse back for many days and miles to take the Gospel from village to village. Just before he passed on, he was asked, “Do you have any regrets about your life?” He answered, “Yes, I missed some opportunities to tell people about the love of God.” The person who asked him the question replied, “But you dedicated your life to God's service. How can you think that way?” Moody responded, “There was always someone else to tell about Jesus. I should have been more diligent; more bold in some situations.” You see, my friends, God empowered us that the Gospel would go unstoppable from our mouths. That was something the Reformers committed their lives to. And I'm sure Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Zwingly, John Knox and the rest wanted to see us doing that as well.
Paul referred to 2 The Believer’s Motive. He says in verse 17, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” We have to know the reason why we need God’s grace in His Son, Jesus Christ, revealed to us in the Scriptures. Paul mentioned the word righteous, but before....there was unrighteousness in people’s lives. He quoted from Hab. 2:4 where the prophet describes the unrighteous condition of the ungodly – "See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright." Man’s way has always been trust in self. That has never been God’s plan. God’s way is man’s obedience. And obedience was what Paul stood for abd that was the conviction of Maarten Luther's heart. He made a stand for God, when he said, “Here I stand for I can do no other.” And then after him over 505 years thousands of people testified that they too were unrighteous, but because of Jesus' love they became the righteousness of God. O my friends, if you ever want to talk about the best make-over story ever, this one on Romans 1: 17 is the one. God made people of darkness, children of light; He made people who were demon possessed, children who received His Spirit and cried out, “Abba, which means Father.” Galatians 4: 7 Again we cry out with all the joy in our hearts, “By the grace of God I am who I am.” Today we remember the Reformation. We thank God for people He chose as instruments to begin the restoration of His church. Are we willing to be God’s instruments as well? Let’s remember the expressions of the Reformation – 3 Sola Gratia – Grace alone; Sola Scriptura – The Word alone; Sola Fide – Faith alone and Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God alone. Amen.